Maundy Money – the Importance of Holy Thursday
Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. Also known as ‘Holy Thursday’, it marks the official start of Easter. Along with hunting for chocolate eggs, Maundy money is one of our best-loved Easter traditions and The Royal Mint is proud to be part of it.
To understand its origins, we need to revisit The Bible. The word Maundy comes from the Latin ‘mandatum’ which means commandment. On the day before Good Friday, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and commanded them to ‘Love one another’.
By the thirteenth century the Royal Family was taking part in similar ceremonies. The act of washing the feet of the poor, and giving money and gifts, showed similar humility and compassion.
When Henry IV became king, he introduced a new tradition – giving the same number of gifts as his age. It became the custom for the monarch to perform the ceremony and the event became known as the Royal Maundy.
The Origins of Maundy money
The first Maundy money ceremony took place in 1662 during the reign of Charles II, when the king gave people undated hammered coins: a four-penny, three-penny, two-penny and one penny piece. By 1670 they were distributed as a dated set.
The tradition of the king or queen washing the feet of the poor disappeared in the eighteenth century but the monarch still gave people food and clothing. In the nineteenth century the tradition changed again, the monarch simply handed out Maundy money.
Maundy Money Today
During Her Majesty The Queen’s reign, her coinage portrait has been updated five times. However, Maundy money still bears the portrait of Her Majesty created by Mary Gillick for the first coins of her reign in 1953.
Today’s recipients of Royal Maundy are pensioners, chosen because of service given to their Church and community. The ceremony takes place every Maundy Thursday. There are as many recipients as there are years in the monarch’s age; this year there will be 92.
At the ceremony, the monarch hands each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the years of the monarch’s age. However, the real value lies in the history of the occasion.
The ceremony has no fixed location. Remarkably, in the course of her Maundy duty, Queen Elizabeth II has visited every cathedral in the country; the service at Leicester Cathedral in 2017 completed the list.
Maundy money remains an integral part of Easter and centuries after the tradition began, it remains one of the most important days in The Royal Mint’s calendar.
The Spring Collection
As the days turn warmer, colour returns to
the trees and birdsong fills the air, spruce up
your collection with new coins from The Royal Mint.
The Spring Collection
As the days turn warmer, colour returns to the trees and birdsong fills the air, spruce up your collection with new coins from The Royal Mint.